Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

A farewell to TG-170


Yesterday Ursula emailed me to tell me that TG-170 closed it’s doors earlier this year.

Opened in 1992 by artist Terri Gillis, TG-170 was one of the first boutiques to go into the Lower East Side, and is one of those magic stories that makes me love fashion.

I found an interview with Terri, written by Alexandra Phanor-Faury in 2010:

“When I first moved in, nobody wanted to be on Ludlow,” recalls Gillis. “I remember when the SWAT team came to bust this notorious gang dealing heroin. They blocked off the whole street and there was a helicopter hovering over us.”…Gillis became the unofficial LES mayor, with her apartment being transformed into a gritty, punk-influenced clothing store, gallery space and all around clubhouse where skaters, artists and fashion designers would congregate to exchange ideas, form friendships, and kick-off careers….“Back then you did not need a lot of money to start a business. It was a business, but really it was more of a creative endeavor.”

Gillis was way ahead of her time when she set out to focus the store around indie designers—especially New Yorkers—set in an unpretentious setting, a recipe that has since been reproduced by a slew of the city’s boutiques.

“She was investing in the talent around the vicinity of the store,” says Madewell Marketing Director Gigi Guerra…“Terri gave lots of designers [including Wendy Mullin of Built by Wendy whom Ursula and I both deeply admire] a venue in a time when their only choices were either department stores or very high-end stores.”

I love this description of a fashion show held there.

Ironically, as the Lower East Side transformed into the fashionable area it is today, rents sky rocketed, forcing businesses, including TG-170, out. In 2010 Terri moved the boutique to a cheaper location down the street, to no avail. January 3rd she closed the store “for awhile or for forever”.

Our story about TG-170 happened in August of 2005:

It was the height of summer in New York; hot and sticky in the way only New York at the height of summer can be. We were in town to shop modaspia’s Spring 2006 collection around to boutiques, a guerrilla alternative to the expensive trade show we had exhibited at the year before.

This involved a lot of cold calls to stores to set up appointments (or, worse ‘dropping in’ on them, a technique I do not recommend, though it worked for us several times), a lot of dragging our heavy suitcase full of samples up & down the stairs to the subway, a lot of walking miles from the subway to a store dragging said suitcase, a lot of standing in front of stone-faced strangers, pitching the line.

And a lot of eating great food (due in part to the awkward gaps between appointments, and to Ursula being 3 months pregnant).

We were having brunch at a Brazilian diner one afternoon, and Ursula, gazing out the window says, all nonchalant, ‘there’s one of the Olsen twins’. And sure enough, there she was, walking across E. Houston with her body-guard.

If I remember correctly, we picked up about five stores, including Mini-mini-market in Williamsburg (still pretty grotty back then) and Bird, in Park Slope.

In the evenings we’d head back to our teeny hotel room, shower, put our sore feet up and try to unwind. One night Ursula fell asleep and I flicked through the channels on t.v., only half paying attention to the footage of cars backed up for miles outside of New Orleans, as people fled the hurricane which was headed for the city.

Posters by Mike Mills, another hero

The morning of our appointment with Terri, we stopped for bad coffee and a greasy pastry then walked a the block or two over to 170 Ludlow and hung around outside. Across the street was vegan juice bar, next door was a restaurant specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches.

A beautiful young woman with a blond pixie cut arrived and let us into the store. She grabbed a dress from one of the racks and disappeared into the back to change, then settled down at the counter to eat her breakfast: a container of plain yogurt into which she sprinkled copious quantities of fresh blueberries from the farmers market.

She told us about about the line of down jumpsuits she was designing to fashionably combat the New York winters, and about how great Terri was.

The boutique was romantic: dimly lit by three-tiered chandeliers composed of shell discs, the back wall was covered in a deep red & black victorian wallpaper, the counters were gold & silver with kind of a disco vibe. Along one wall were a set of jewelry cases, filled with beautiful, intricate and wild pieces.

After a few minutes, three identical West Highland Terriers raced in, whirling around the store, followed calmly by Terri who introduced them as Pinky, Mojo & Daisy. She was quiet, laid everything out on the big leather chaise lounge, looked thoughtfully and carefully at every piece. She ordered the fiji dress, a voile blouse with pin tucks and covered buttons up the back, and a silk dress with a twenties style dropped waist, hand-dyed a deep tea rose color.

We got one more go round in fall, and then she moved on, or we weren’t a fit anymore, I can’t remember now. But in any case, here’s to you Terri for giving us a shot. Congratulations on building something truly beautiful & unique.

Gillis & Daisy by Pavement Pieces


3 Responses to “A farewell to TG-170”

  1. Ursula

    Ah good memories .. Minus Katrina. that was surreal listening to updates on the plane home remember?
    I still have that tg-170 poster up in my studio. The one with Anouk Aimee.
    Love your story Oami!


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